‘Is there something innovative we can do to tell this story?’: How journalists and developers can work together on creative solutions for the audience’s needs

As part of the American Press Institute’s Changemaker Network, which seeks to connect and support journalists from newsrooms around the country, we sponsored a few journalists in the network to attend the 2017 Online News Association conference. They were all first-timers at the conference, and we asked them each to share something that they learned by connecting with other digital journalists from across the world. Continue reading “‘Is there something innovative we can do to tell this story?’: How journalists and developers can work together on creative solutions for the audience’s needs”

Help Wanted: The ultimate social media job description

What does an effective social media team look like? Scott Kleinberg says it starts with a leadership position that solidifies social media as an integral part of journalism, not just an afterthought. Kleinberg, a social media editor at Crain Communications in New York, was a longtime social media editor for the Chicago Tribune and author of the syndicated column “So Social.” He wrote this “job posting” to describe the ideal hire for a newsroom’s current and future social media needs. “A social media editor’s role is among the most important in journalism,” Kleinberg said. “While this job posting was aspirational just a few years ago and may remain that to some extent today, it’s anything but for a newsroom focused on the future.” Continue reading “Help Wanted: The ultimate social media job description”

Engaging your audiences (even the difficult ones): More ideas from the experts

Listening to audiences is a practice that’s gotten lost in the crush of heavy workloads and small staffs. From the American Press Institute’s Manager study: “Notably, only one-fifth said that ‘news is a two-way conversation.’ This may reflect a lack of enthusiasm towards comments on news sites, or other forms of audience interaction, such as through social media. Or perhaps it simply ranks as a lesser benefit in the eyes of media workers, even as news organizations and philanthropic foundations emphasize its importance. Continue reading “Engaging your audiences (even the difficult ones): More ideas from the experts”

Social media teams today: A summary of what we learned

First, our definition of the “social media team.”  The people handling social media in newsrooms might not strictly be a “team” and might be called something else —  “social engagement” or “audience development,” for instance. These teams might be comprised of one full-time person or a number of people who also have other newsroom duties.  For expediency, we’re using the term “social media team” generically in this report. Continue reading “Social media teams today: A summary of what we learned”

The Innovation Divide: Similarities and differences in how managers and staff view the transition to digital

Editor’s note: Rather than slow, the pace of change in news in 2017 appears only to be accelerating. McClatchy’s new chief executive recently announced a program to speed up digital transformation in the newspaper chain’s 31 newsrooms. The multi-million dollar Knight-Lenfest Newsroom initiative (of which API plays a role) has expanded its team-centric process to accelerate organizational change at local newspaper companies. And leaders at the New York Times have gone public to answer questions about the future of editing at the paper after announcing plans to eliminate the stand-alone copy desk. Against that backdrop, API is releasing a fresh look at data gathered from more than 10,000 people who studied journalism and communications. This new analysis assesses the differences and similarities between managers and staff in journalism. The new report was written by Alex Williams, who is a Ph.D. Candidate at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School.

To what extent do newsroom leaders and the journalists who work for them agree on what constitute the biggest challenges facing the news industry? Are managers and staff in agreement when it comes to new approaches such as data journalism, gathering information from audience metrics, and experimenting with new revenue approaches such as sponsored content?

Given the degree to which culture impacts how successful legacy organizations can be in making changes, the answers to those questions can be a major factor in the future of news.

For a research fellowship centered on this concept, I’ve taken a deeper look at data from the American Press Institute’s 2015 survey of more than 10,000 journalism and communication school graduates, plus a previously unreleased sample of news managers from American Society of News Editors and Radio Television Digital News Association. In sum, this report analyzes survey responses of 1,604 managers and 3,579 staff members in the media industry to gauge their comfort level with new technologies, the challenges they face in their daily jobs, their views about the journalism industry more broadly, and their career experiences in 2010-2015 (see Methodology and Sample). While the data is from 2015, we believe the attitudes about long-term issues, and the differences between managers and staff, remain as relevant as they were then.

The views of managers generally resemble the ‘business side’ that focuses on audience metrics and embracing new streams of revenue while the views of staff more closely align with the ‘editorial side’ that focuses on creating content and preserving news quality.

The results of the survey suggest that managers are more comfortable embracing new digital practices and technologies, managers and staff members report similar experiences and frustration with cut backs, and that staff members are more critical of sponsored content and media owners. A key implication of these findings is that compared to managers, staff members are less comfortable with certain new digital applications and less interested in learning about new business approaches.

While managers and staff share some similarities, the overall picture that emerges from the survey is still one of lingering silos. The views of managers generally resemble the “business side” that focuses on audience metrics and embracing new streams of revenue while the views of staff more closely align with the “editorial side” that focuses on creating content and preserving news quality.

Some may see this as a natural extension of managers focusing on the “big questions” while staff focus on what they do best: producing journalism.

But innovation reports, studies of best practices, and individual case studies have concluded that this traditional set up may stymie change. Innovation often requires workers throughout the organization to share the same goals and views. Seen from this perspective, the contrasts between managers and staff may illustrate the need to more clearly communicate how new strategies fit within existing norms and goals. Conversely, managers may need to listen more to staff concerns to iterate new approaches.

Innovation often requires workers throughout the organization to share the same goals and views.

Among our notable findings:

  • Managers want quicker adoption of technology. When asked about the biggest challenges facing journalism, managers are more likely than staff members to believe that traditional media companies need to adapt faster to new technology (39% vs 30%).
  • Managers say they are more comfortable with new digital practices and technologies than staff members do. Managers are more likely to be “very comfortable” with content management systems (47% vs 31%), layout software (23% vs 14%), project management tools (23% vs 11%), graphic design (19% vs 13%), HTML (16% vs 10%), and using digital tools to verify information (50% vs 44%). Staff members are more likely to report that they do not use these tools in their jobs.
  • Managers place greater emphasis on data journalism and audience metrics. Managers were more likely to emphasize fluency with data (39% vs 31%), understanding audience data (32% vs 22%), and conducting audience research (31% vs 26%) as important for someone in their field.
  • A growing problem in the industry may be overworked employees. In the past five years, the majority of managers and staff members reported having duties added to existing job responsibilities (68% vs 62%). Relatedly, for both managers and staff members, the biggest obstacle affecting their ability to do their job is “organization resources and staffing” (59% compared to 47% of staff members).
  • Staff members feel less secure in their jobs. 74 percent of managers reported feeling at least “fairly secure” compared to 67 percent  of staff members.
  • Managers and staff members have experienced cutbacks at similar rates. In the past five years, members of both groups have personally experienced layoffs (13% in both groups), pay cuts (15% vs 14%), and furloughs (10% vs 9%).
  • Outside of their primary jobs, managers donate more time while staff members freelance more. Managers are more likely to have donated their skills to a charitable group (53% vs 44%). Staff members are more likely to have performed freelance work (33% vs 22%).
  • Staff members are more skeptical of financial questions such as sponsored content and aggregators. Staff members are more likely to believe that sponsored content crosses ethical boundaries (58% vs 50% of managers) and that news aggregators should compensate journalists (61% vs 58%).

The post The Innovation Divide: Similarities and differences in how managers and staff view the transition to digital appeared first on American Press Institute.

New research: The characteristics of news stories that help attack misinformation

The number of fact-checking stories produced by journalists has increased dramatically in recent years, but could those stories be better at countering misinformation?

Scholars and journalists have begun to explore the characteristics that improve fact-checking’s success in helping readers understand and accept factual information. My recent study, supported by the American Press Institute, examines how readers’ trust in journalists and sources might influence the effectiveness of fact-checking stories. The study examined two methods that journalists might use to increase the credibility of fact checks: (1) Increasing consumer trust in the news story itself by including a photo of the journalist, and (2) using representatives from institutions that readers already trust as sources of facts and information in the story.

Findings indicate that readers are more likely to accurately recall the facts of a story if it cites sources trusted by the reader; and that they were no more likely to recall accurate information after reading a story included a photo of the writer.

Through this study, we also uncovered some interesting information about how people define “journalist” and “the news media.” Here’s how they responded when asked who they considered to be a journalist:

  • 83 percent considered those working for print newspapers and broadcast programs on television networks as journalists.
  • 34 percent said pundits or those who write for op-ed pages are journalists.
  • 30 percent considered people who write for blogs/websites not associated with print or major broadcast programs are journalists.
  • 23 percent said people who post on social media platforms (again, not associated with major outlets) are journalists.

When asked to define the “news media,” 66 percent cited news programs on television networks. Other answers were:

  • 34 percent: traditional print sources
  • 10 percent: websites or blogs not run by print sources or networks
  • 10 percent: social media posts
  • 9 percent: comedy programs
  • 8 percent: programs aired on social media channels, such as YouTube

This research was commissioned by API’s Accountability Journalism Project, an initiative to increase and improve fact-checking journalism through research and training. The program is currently funded by the Democracy Fund.

How the survey was conducted

As part of a nationally representative survey, I created a fact-checking story challenging misinformation about immigration believed by a substantial segment of the American public. The story said the belief that illegal immigration rates from Mexico had been increasing is inaccurate. Then, accurate information was provided.

Sources cited in the survey’s news stories varied. Information was attributed to representatives of one of three groups: corporations, government agencies or academic research institutions. Half of the stories attributing information to these groups included a photo of the writer, half did not. Here’s an example of a fact-checking story citing corporate sources:

 

Fact Check: Popular Attitudes about Illegal Immigration

By Joshua Johnson, The Washington Post Gazette

© January 3, 2017

Many Americans associate immigration with Mexican citizens entering the United States illegally. A recent Pew Research Center survey asked Americans what word came to mind when they thought about immigration. The most common answer: “illegal.” And despite evidence to the contrary, many Americans believe that illegal immigration from Mexico continues to rise.

At a recent meeting in Phoenix to discuss potential immigration reforms, representatives from a number of major corporations addressed common misperceptions about immigration. According to John Smith, an executive at ConAgra, we “have a very good understanding of illegal immigrants’ countries of origin. While people from Mexico made up 52% of all unauthorized immigrants in 2014, their numbers have declined in recent years. 5.8 million Mexican unauthorized immigrants were living in the U.S. in 2014, a decrease of more than half a million people from 2009.” Smith is working to reform the US immigration system, and come up with a workable way to deal with those here illegally. A representative for Intel reiterated Smith’s point saying that “as the number of unauthorized immigrants from Mexico decreased, the number from nations other than Mexico grew to an estimated 5.3 million in 2014. Most of this growth came from unauthorized immigrants from Asia and Central America, in addition to sub-Saharan Africa.”

So what accounts for Americans’ continued belief that illegal immigration from Mexico has increased, despite facts to the contrary? Those attending this meeting in Phoenix believe that false claims made by politicians, activists, and bloggers underlie continued public mispercpetions. Cassidy Winthrop of Facebook contends “it would be so much more productive if we could move past misguided beliefs about immigrants and begin a real discussion about how to reform a US immigration system that members of both parties agree isn’t working.” Winthrop’s colleague, Jared Daniels, echoed her sentiment. “I wish people understood the positive economic consequences of immigration. There are thousands of engineering jobs sitting vacant that highly skilled immigrants could fill,” he said. “If we could correct some of the mistaken beliefs that Americans hold, I think we would be much further along in developing policies that would address problems in our immigration system. And that would benefit all of us.”

 

After reading the story, participants in the study answered questions about immigration. Specifically, they identified whether the number of illegal immigrants from Mexico had increased, decreased, or stayed the same over the past decade.

The study found that people who read any version of the fact-checking story were more likely to correctly answer that illegal immigration from Mexico had decreased than people who read a news story on an unrelated topic.

And, trust in the institution associated with the sources cited in the story influenced the effectiveness of the fact check. For instance, readers with higher levels of trust in corporations were more likely to know actual illegal immigration levels when they read a story citing corporate spokespersons. Readers with higher levels of trust in government agencies were more to answer correctly when they read a story citing representatives of these agencies. And readers with higher levels of trust in academic research institutions were more likely to know the actual illegal immigration levels when they read a story citing academic researchers.

While citing a trusted source increased a story’s effectiveness, including a photo of the author did not. People reading a version of the story with a photo of the writer were no more likely to accurately identify immigration levels than those reading a version without a photo.

Next steps

This study suggests that journalists may be able to tailor the content of their fact-checking stories to make them more persuasive to readers, even on hot button and highly partisan political issues such as illegal immigration.

Clearly, though, journalists first need to know and understand their audiences. Companies can conduct online surveys of readers quickly, and at a relatively low cost. Who or what type of sources do readers trust? Knowing the answers to that question could potentially allow reporters to use those sources in their fact-checks and possibly increase the fact-check’s impact.

Communication and political science research indicates the difficulty of convincing people to accept fact-checks that counter misinformation. While journalists face substantial hurdles as they work to counter such misinformation, relying on sources that readers trust may provide journalists a valuable tool in combatting it.

The full study will be available in September.

The post New research: The characteristics of news stories that help attack misinformation appeared first on American Press Institute.

Subject expertise, social cues, and promotions are the three big reasons people pay for news

The future of the news industry seems increasingly hinged on a central question: How do news organizations get more people to pay for the news that they consume?

To answer that question, the industry also needs to get a better sense of what drives those who already do pay. A new, exhaustive survey from the Media Insight Project (a collaboration between the American Press Institute and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research) offers plenty of insight into payers and nonpayers — and the differences between the two groups.

Here are a few standout findings:

There are few surprises in why people pay for news. News organizations trying to convince people to pay must first start by creating something worth paying for — which is to say, something differentiated, focused, and high quality. More than 4 in 10 subscribers said that they paid for a publication because it “excels at covering certain topics about which they particularly care.” The Media Insight Project said that while current economic challenges may be encouraging news organizations to cut back, subscribers are increasingly rewarding publications that invest more resources into high quality content.

Other reasons people pay? More than 4 in 10 said it was because friends or family members subscribe to the publication. Oh, and don’t ignore the power of the discount: At 37 percent, spotting a discount or promotion was the third-largest motivation for people to pay up. That’s one area where digital publications can learn from their print counterparts. Another highlight: Young people in particular are more likely pay because they support a publication’s mission.

A lot of people don’t pay for news because there’s plenty of free stuff online. This rationale, cited by half of nonpayers, shouldn’t shock anyone in the industry — it’s hard to compete with free, after all. Others (41 percent) said that they don’t pay for news because they don’t care enough about it, and a smaller number (24 percent) said that news is too expensive. Just 15 percent of nonpayers said they didn’t pay because they don’t trust what they read from news sources.

Paywalls work, but only to a degree. Many publications have leaned on paywalls to help turn habitual readers into paying subscribers. But turns out that that there’s a limit to how effective the tactic is: Roughly 17 percent of payers cited paywalls as the the factor that pushed them to subscribe. The Media Insight Project said that paywalls are most effective when they’re combined “with other considerations of ‘value,’ including frequent engagement, quality content, and more.”

Another number worth pointing out: 17 percent of people said they don’t pay for news because of the ease at which they can get around paywalls from the likes of The Wall Street Journal.

News organizations should target nonpaying “news seekers.” It turns out that, in terms of consumption, people who don’t pay for news look a lot like those that do. The Media Insight Project said that understanding these nonpaying news seekers should be a core part of publishers’ growth strategies going forward.

There’s a lot of price sensitivity among nonpayers. Researchers asked people if they would be willing to pay for a current news source that cost 50¢, $1, $3, or $7 a week. While a quarter of nonpayers said they would be willing to pay 50¢ or $1, just 15 percent would do so if the publication cost $3 or more. That’s more evidence that, when it comes to crafting a pricing strategy, most news publications face an uphill battle if the value proposition isn’t there.

Newspaper subscribers vs. other types of subscribers

Within the universe of people who pay for news, the survey identifies those who subscribe to newspapers and those who do not.

In all, 54 percent of people who pay for news subscribe to a newspaper, and there are a number of differences between newspaper subscribers and subscribers of other news sources.1

Newspaper subscribers tend to place more importance than subscribers to other news sources on being informed; they also are more likely to value the benefits associated with print (if they are print-oriented) and digital (if they are digitally oriented).

Newspaper subscribers also tend to subscribe to more publications than other kinds of news subscribers. Indeed, just 15 percent of newspaper subscribers say they pay for only one type of source. Fifty-five percent of newspaper subscribers pay for anywhere from two to four kinds of publications (i.e., print newspaper, digital newspaper, print magazine, etc.). And 30 percent of newspaper subscribers say they pay for five or more kinds of publications.

By comparison, subscribers to non-newspaper sources tend to pay for fewer types of sources. The majority, 58 percent, pay for just that one magazine or digital source. Another 4 in 10 (39 percent) pay for two to four source types. Just 3 percent pay for five or more types of publications.

Among newspaper subscribers, 84 percent are paying for a print newspaper, 38 percent are paying for a bundled print and digital newspaper subscription, and 28 percent are paying for digital-only versions of a newspaper (the numbers total to more than 100 percent because of multiple subscriptions). A majority of newspaper subscribers also pay for a print magazine, which is the other most popular publication type.

Percent
Print version of a newspaper 84%
Print version of a magazine 57%
Both print and digital versions of a newspaper 38%
Digital-only version of a newspaper 28%
News apps for your smartphone or tablet 27%
Digital news site 22%
Print or digital newsletter 21%
Both print and digital versions of a magazine 20%
Public television (a local PBS television station, for example) 18%
Digital-only version of a magazine 16%
Other nonprofit journalism 13%
Public radio (a local NPR radio station, for example) 12%

Data Source: Questions: In the past year, please check whether you have donated money, someone else in your household has donated money, or you have not donated money to each of the following.
Next, we are interested in whether you paid to use any media in the last year. For each of the following types of media, please indicate whether you personally have a subscription or pay for it on a regular basis, or not.

Media Insight Project

Among those who pay for news, the only major demographic difference between newspaper subscribers and subscribers of other news sources is age. Seventy percent of adults age 65 and older who pay for news subscribe to a newspaper compared with 46 percent of those 18-34 years old, 46 percent of those 35-49 years old, and 52 percent of those 50-64 years old.

Newspaper subscribers also tend to be more avid news consumers than subscribers of other news sources. In particular, newspaper subscribers are more likely to actively seek out news, get news multiple times a day, and say it is very important to them to personally follow news.

Interestingly, newspaper subscribers use social media at identical rates to subscribers of other kinds of news. Sixty-nine percent of newspaper subscribers get news on social media, about the same as subscribers to other sources.

Newspaper subscribers Other news subscribers
Actively seek out news 79% 67%
Get news multiple times a day 82% 71%
Very or extremely important to them personally to follow news 67% 52%

Data Source: Questions: Choose the statement that best describes you, even if it is not exactly right. In general…I actively seek out news and information or I mostly bump into news and information as I do other things or hear about it from others.
How often do you watch, read, hear, or see news? Again, by news, we mean any kind of news, including sports, traffic, weather, stocks, politics, lifestyle, or any other kind of news, by any means.
How important is it to you personally to keep up with news and information?

Media Insight Project

The other biggest difference between newspaper subscribers and those of other kinds of publications is the topics people are interested in.

Both groups tend to follow national politics, traffic, weather, sports, and crime and public safety. Newspaper subscribers are more likely to also say they follow news about local politics (19 percent vs. 12 percent). Subscribers of other news sources are more likely to say they follow foreign or international news (13 percent vs. 9 percent).

Newspaper subscribers Other news subscribers
National politics or government 66% 58%
Traffic and weather 49% 56%
Sports 27% 24%
Crime and public safety 22% 24%
My town or neighborhood 17% 16%

Data Source: Question: Here are some common news and information topics. Which of these news topics do you follow most often or closely? Please select up to three of the following.

Media Insight Project

A majority of newspaper subscribers have paid for their paper for more than five years. At the same time, 1 in 10 newspaper subscribers started paying in the last three months.

Newspaper subscribers Other news subscribers
3 months or less 11% 23%
6 months 5% 5%
Last year 11% 16%
2 to 5 years 19% 24%
5+ years 53% 27%

Data Source: Question: How long have you been paying for [PAID SOURCE]?

Media Insight Project

People subscribe to newspapers for a variety of reasons, many of them similar to the reasons they cite for subscribing to other kinds of news. But there are some factors for newspapers that stand out. One of them is social connection. Nearly half of newspaper subscribers (46 percent) say they decided to pay in part because their friends or family used, compared with 34 percent of subscribers to other kinds of publications.

Other popular reasons among newspaper subscribers for starting to pay for the source are that they were looking for a news source that covers a topic well (42 percent) and there was a promotion or discount (37 percent), but all of these are similar to the reasons people subscribe to any news.

Going down the list, 2 in 10 newspaper subscribers say they were hitting a pay meter, and only about 1 in 10 say they saw the source on social media.

Newspaper subscribers Other news subscribers
My friends or family used it 46% 34%
I was looking for a news source that covers a particular topic/issue 42% 45%
There was a discount or promotion for it 37% 37%
My personal situation changed and I now have more time to use the paid content 25% 17%
My financial situation changed and I can now afford to pay for it 19% 20%
I was hitting the maximum amount of content I could see for free 19% 15%
I got it at work and then started paying for it myself 13% 10%
I noticed it on social media 12% 15%

Data Source: Question: What factors helped lead you to start paying for [PAID SOURCE]?

Media Insight Project

What about motivations for paying? Are newspaper subscribers different than subscribers in general?

The answer is they tend to be a little more civically minded in their answers than subscribers to other kinds of publications.

For instance, newspaper subscribers tend to place a lot of importance on their news source helping them be a better citizen than subscribers to other publications (55 percent vs. 37 percent) and less importance on a publication being entertaining (36 percent vs. 50 percent). Subscribers of all publications care about that outlet doing a good job of covering an issue that matters to them (about half across the board).

Newspaper subscribers Other news subscribers
Helps me stay informed and be a better citizen 55% 37%
Is very good at covering an issue or topic I care a lot about 48% 49%
Helps me talk to friends, family and colleagues about news 39% 23%
Is enjoyable or entertaining 36% 50%
Helps me decide where I stand on things 33% 26%
Helps me find places to go and things to do 26% 15%

Data Source: Question: People use news for many reasons. When it comes to the biggest reasons you use [PAID SOURCE], how important to you is it that it…?

Media Insight Project

And even though many newspaper subscribers say they tend to prefer print, it would be a mistake to think they only engage with the newspaper that way.

Indeed, newspaper subscribers tell us they engage with their sources in a variety of ways related to both print and digital.

As an example, newspaper subscribers are even more likely than subscribers of other publications to share content (56 percent vs. 39 percent). About a quarter of newspaper subscribers follow the paper on social media and use its app (same as subscribers to other publications).

Newspaper subscribers Other news subscribers
Share its content 56% 39%
Use the coupons 53% 16%
Visit its website 46% 46%
Save print copies for later 43% 38%
Follow on social media 25% 23%
Use its app 23% 28%
Subscribe to push, text, or email alerts 18% 18%
Subscribe to email newsletter 15% 18%

Data Source: Question: In which of the following ways do you interact with [PAID SOURCE]? Do you …?

Media Insight Project

When asked about the benefits they receive from their newspaper subscriptions, features related to print versions are the most popular. Nearly half say they like the coupons or discounts while about 1 in 3 say they get access to print in addition to digital content. Only 14 percent say they get an unlimited number of digital stories.

Newspaper subscribers are also more likely than subscribers of other sources to say they like the coupons or discounts and that they get access to print in addition to digital content.

Newspaper subscribers Other news subscribers
I like the coupons or discounts 46% 18%
I get access to print in addition to digital content 35% 19%
I get content that is only available to paying customers 35% 37%
I feel good about contributing to the news organization 31% 28%
It gives me access to events sponsored by the news organization 19% 15%
I get access to giveaways or other benefits only available to subscribers 15% 9%
I like getting an unlimited number of digital stories 14% 15%

Data Source: Question: What benefits do you get from paying for [PAID SOURCE]?

Media Insight Project

The majority of newspaper subscribers seem fine with the price they pay. Fifty-two percent of newspaper subscribers say the price of the paper is a very small cost while 38 percent say it is a moderate cost and 9 percent say it is a significant cost. Subscribers to other types of news are even more likely to say the cost is small. Sixty-six percent of subscribers to other sources say it is a small cost, 25 percent say a moderate cost, and 5 percent say a significant cost.

But there is some sign that people are worried about the flip side of the price of newspapers—the value they get for what they pay.

Indeed, 28 percent of newspaper subscribers say the paper is a very good value. Almost twice as many (52 percent) say it is a fair value. And 20 percent say it is overpriced. This suggests that newspapers may have gotten close to the point where they have raised prices about as far as they can. The majority think the price is now fair, and almost as many subscribers think it is too high than think it is too low.

By contrast, subscribers to other kinds of publications indicate there is still room. Here, a majority of subscribers to other news sources say it is a very good value (55 percent), 33 percent say it is a fair value, and only 9 percent say it is overpriced.

  1. Newspaper subscribers are defined here as those who personally pay for either a print version of a newspaper, a digital-only version of a newspaper, or both print and digital versions of a newspaper. Subscribers of other news sources do not pay for any type of newspaper subscription, but subscribe to a magazine, news site, news app, or newsletter, or donate to public television, public radio, or nonprofit journalism.

The post Newspaper subscribers vs. other types of subscribers appeared first on American Press Institute.

Print vs. digital subscribers: Demographic differences and paths to subscription

Overall, 58 percent of subscribers describe themselves as primarily print-oriented, and 28 percent say they are primarily digital. Among just newspaper subscribers, even more (75 percent) describe themselves as print-oriented. But these numbers look very different when we break people down by demographic groups.

Among those who pay, Hispanics are particularly likely to use primarily a digital version (45 percent) compared with 34 percent of African Americans and 23 percent of whites.

And the age differences between print and digital payers are striking. Older adults are much more likely to pay for print over digital.

Adults age 65 and older who pay for news are five times more likely to buy print than digital (72 percent vs. 14 percent).

By contrast, younger adults age 18 to 34 are equally likely to pay for print or digital (42 percent in both camps).

In other words, any forward looking subscription strategy has to lean more digital, even if the current subscriber base is in print.

But that is only the beginning of why digital approaches make sense even in the short term.

18-34 year olds 35-49 year olds 50-64 year olds 65 and older
Print 42% 49% 64% 72%
Digital 42% 34% 25% 14%
Print and digital equally 5% 6% 3% 3%

Data Source: Question: Next, we are interested in whether you paid to use any media in the last year. For each of the following types of media, please indicate whether you personally have a subscription or pay for it on a regular basis, or not.

Media Insight Project

18-34 year olds 35-49 year olds 50-64 year olds 65 and older
Print 47% 67% 82% 88%
Digital 45% 25% 15% 10%
Print and digital equally 5% 7% 3% 2%

Data Source: Question: Next, we are interested in whether you paid to use any media in the last year. For each of the following types of media, please indicate whether you personally have a subscription or pay for it on a regular basis, or not.

Media Insight Project

Digital subscribers are much more likely to have started using a source recently. About 1 in 3 digital subscribers say they began paying for the source less than three months ago. Only 7 percent of print subscribers are such recent customers.

Most print subscribers (53 percent), on the other hand, have had their subscriptions five years or longer. Only 19 percent of digital subscribers fit in that group.

Digital payers Print payers
3 months or less 31% 7%
4 months to a year 27% 15%
2 to 4 years 18% 23%
5+ years 19% 53%

Data Source: Question: How long have you been paying for [PAID SOURCE]?

Media Insight Project

Are digital subscribers motivated to pay for different reasons than print subscribers? For the most part, the two groups are moved by the same factors. Quality and price, for instance, are key elements that trigger people to subscribe, whether a consumer is getting a print or a digital subscription. The perception that a news outlet is good at covering a particular topic and a discounted subscription promotion are among the two top reasons for both groups as well.

But digital subscribers are more likely than print subscribers to also say they started to pay because they noticed the publication on social media (25 percent vs. 8 percent). Digital subscribers are also more likely to say they were hitting the maximum amount of content they could get for free (29 percent vs. 12 percent).

How important is the idea of the pay meter counting down—and the threat of losing access each month—in persuading a user to become a subscriber? The data suggests it has its limits even for potential digital subscribers. To begin with, meter alerts rank fourth among reasons for paying (out of eight queried), with about the same number as those who say they began to notice the news source in their social media stream. And while 29 percent of digital subscribers say they noticed they were hitting their limit, the flip side is 7 out of 10 don’t cite that as a factor. In other words, other elements of reaching digital subscribers are more important than meter warnings. They are simply part of a suite of elements—along with the coverage of a particular topic or promotions—that matter when trying to persuade potential subscribers to pay.

Print payers Digital payers
I was looking for a news source that covers a particular topic/issue 41% 47%
My friends or family used it 45% 35%
There was a discount or promotion for it 39% 35%
I was hitting the maximum amount of content I could see for free 12% 29%
I noticed it on social media 8% 25%
My personal situation changed and I now have more time to use the paid content 18% 24%
My financial situation changed and I can now afford to pay for it 16% 20%
I got it at work and then started paying for it myself 11% 12%

Data Source: Question: What factors helped lead you to start paying for [PAID SOURCE]?

Media Insight Project

Print versus digital subscriber engagement

Are there differences in the ways subscribers use news in print versus digital?

In many ways, news consumption is similar across formats. The differences that do exist are largely those one might expect based on technology.

As an example, the majority of print-oriented subscribers say they use the coupons (51 percent) and a similar number (55 percent) are saving copies of the paper for use later.

But it isn’t as though digitally oriented subscribers don’t use coupons as well; 15 percent do, and even more (21 percent) save copies for later.

Print-oriented subscribers have digital behavior, too. Fully 38 percent of subscribers who describe themselves as primarily print users also visit the source’s website.

And the findings show that the sharing of news is not something that began with the web, email, or social media. Fifty-five percent of print-oriented subscribers—as many as use coupons—share content with others.

Sharing is high among all age groups, though it is highest among the oldest adults. Sixty-three percent of print subscribers age 65 and older share content compared with 58 percent of those age 50-64, 49 percent of those age 30-49, and 38 percent of those age 18-34.

What distinguishes digitally oriented subscribers?

They engage with publishers in multiple ways for one thing. For instance, among those who prefer digital, 61 percent visit the website, 49 percent use the app, and 43 percent share content with others. Digital subscribers are also more likely than print-oriented subscribers to sign up for alerts or email newsletters and to follow a publication on social media.

Digital subscribers are also more likely than print-oriented subscribers to sign up for alerts or email newsletters and to follow a publication on social media.

Some of the differences between print and digitally oriented subscribers have to do with the convenience of digital. Digital payers are significantly more likely than print payers, for example, to use their favored source multiple times a day (28 percent vs. 5 percent).

All this has implications for how publishers should serve digital subscribers. A significant number of digital subscribers likely want the news updated regularly. This may also be true for print-oriented readers. Indeed, fully 77 percent of subscribers who turn to their favorite source mainly in print say they get news multiple times a day (but just 5 percent do so using their favored source). That number is virtually identical to the number of digitally oriented subscribers (78 percent) who usually get news multiple times a day.

For both groups, print and digital subscribers, social media is a major part of this frequent news acquisition. Fully 73 percent of news subscribers now say they get news from social media.

And it is worth repeating that many of these activities are not exclusive for either those who prefer digital or print, as many payers can access both formats. Remember, 4 in 10 print subscribers still go to the website; 2 in 10 follow it on social media. Conversely, 1 in 10 people who prefer digital use coupons from their source, and 2 in 10 save copies.

Print payers Digital payers
Visit its website 38% 61%
Use its app 13% 49%
Regularly share its content with others 55% 43%
Follow it on social media 18% 36%
Subscribe to its push notifications, text messages, or email news alerts 10% 33%
Subscribe to an email newsletter 9% 27%
Save print copies to read later or share with others 55% 21%
Use the coupons 51% 15%

Data Source: Question: In which of the following ways do you interact with [PAID SOURCE]? Do you …?

Media Insight Project

If there is a fair amount of overlap in the behavior of print and digital subscribers, do the two groups differ in what they say they value about their subscriptions?

Here again, digital and print subscribers are more similar than different. They both tend to value a variety of aspects about their favorite publications rather than just one or two. They both like having access to content nonsubscribers cannot get (37 percent for digital and 39 percent for print). And they both feel good about contributing to the news organization (33 percent for digital vs. 25 percent for print).

And are print- and digitally oriented subscribers different in the basic question we asked of all news consumers: why they gravitate to a particular news source in the first place? No. When it comes to how they use the news and why they get it, print and digital subscribers look very similar.

They both think it’s very important that the publication they pay for be good at covering an issue or topic they care about; they both think the news helps them stay informed and be a better citizen. The only significant difference between print and digital subscribers is that print subscribers are more likely to put a higher value on the news source being enjoyable or entertaining (46 percent vs. 33 percent).

Preferences between print and digital versions of subscription

We were also curious how many people today now consider themselves both print and digital subscribers fairly equally, without a clear preference. As we noted in the overview, that group—which might be called the blended news subscriber—is very small. Overall, only 4 percent of subscribers put themselves in that camp; among just newspaper subscribers, the rate is the same (4 percent).

Five percent of print payers say it is very or extremely likely they would transition to a digital-only subscription, 14 percent say moderately likely, and 79 percent say not too likely or not at all likely. Print payers age 65 and older tend to be more certain than younger adults that they won’t switch to digital-only (85 percent), yet 69 percent of those age 18-34 still say they are not too likely to switch either.

Those numbers suggest that publishers thinking of leaning more heavily on subscription revenue from print heritage media, particularly newspapers, will likely find their audience base continuing to want print for as long as possible.

What is it these two groups like most about their preferred format?

The print-oriented readers, in rank order, find print easier to read (64 percent), feel like they get (or maybe notice) more news in print (38 percent), like the printed coupons (30 percent), and like saving print copies to read later (29 percent).

These preferences among the print-oriented vary somewhat by age.

The older people are, the more likely they are to say they find print easier to read: 61 percent of those age 35-49, 68 percent of those age 50-64, and 71 percent of those 65 and older like the ease of print. But a substantial minority of 18-34 year-old subscribers (44 percent) agree. By contrast, the youngest adults are most likely to say print is less expensive than digital (22 percent compared with 7 percent of those 35-49 years old, 8 percent of those 50-64 years old, and 6 percent of those 65 and older).

And what makes digital subscribers prefer that format? The top reason these subscribers say they prefer digital is they can access content anywhere (64 percent). But a substantial minority of digital subscribers also say they think digital is easier to read (39 percent). Almost as many say they prefer digital because it’s less expensive (35 percent) and the content is more frequently updated (33 percent).

Digital payers feel they get more value than print payers

Most people who pay for news think journalism is a good value, but the rate to which they say so does vary whether they are a print oriented or digitally oriented subscriber even though digital is an arena where more content is free. Digitally oriented subscribers are more likely than print payers to say the subscription price they pay is small (67 percent vs. 56 percent). Roughly 1 in 3 digital and print subscribers say it is a moderate cost. Less than 1 in 10 of either group think the cost is significant to them.

As for the flip side of price, the value they get from paying for news, here digital subscribers are more likely to say the source is a very good value for the price (48 percent vs. 32 percent of print subscribers). Print subscribers are more likely to say it is a fair value.

Digital payers Print payers
Very good value 48% 32%
Fair value 36% 52%
Somewhat or very overpriced 16% 16%

Data Source: Question: Think about your satisfaction with [PAID SOURCE] given the price you pay for it. Which statement comes closest to your opinion? It is a very good value for the price. It is a fair value for what it gives me. It is somewhat overpriced and not a good value. It is very overpriced compared to the value it gives me.

Media Insight Project

Payers and nonpayers engage with news on social media

Some may think social media is a special challenge for publishers—that the people who encounter their content through platforms like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram will never become subscribers.

The findings here suggest that that is an oversimplification—and one that may lead publishers to miss an important opportunity.

To begin with, subscribers are just as likely as nonsubscribers to follow a publication on social media. What’s more, subscribers are even more likely than others to share content.

So contrary to discounting social media as part of a subscription strategy, the opposite may be true. Engaging with one’s most loyal consumers on social media, the data suggests, is an important way of expanding one’s audience by having loyal users share and endorse a publisher’s content. In effect, publications should work hard to empower their subscribers on social media to become their ambassadors and marketers.

The key challenge for publishers may be to have the capacity to know whether the person who is arriving through Facebook might be the same person who is arriving on a different occasion to their homepage, perhaps on another occasion coming as a registered user through their app, and also subscribing in digital and print. The survey data suggests clearly that some users are doing all of these—even if publishers do not always recognize them as the same person.

In all, about 3 in 4 adults report that they receive news from at least one social media platform, and social media is a popular news source for both those who pay for news as well as those who do not. Fully 73 percent of those who pay for news also get it in social media versus 76 percent of those who do not pay for news.

Indeed, social media is an important way for subscribers to stay connected with their favored news sources. If anything, we believe the evidence suggests that this may be an underused way of engaging with core audiences. In all, 24 percent of those who pay for news follow their regular paid news source on social media.

This level of engagement with a preferred source on social media is the same for people who don’t pay—25 percent say they follow their regular free news source on social media.

Facebook is the most popular social media site for news, as 6 in 10 adults report getting news from Facebook. Many Americans also get news from YouTube (36 percent), Twitter (15 percent), Instagram (14 percent), LinkedIn (10 percent), Snapchat (10 percent), and Reddit (6 percent).

Percent
Any social media 75%
Facebook 60%
YouTube 36%
Twitter 15%
Instagram 14%
LinkedIn 10%
Snapchat 10%
Reddit 6%

Data Source: Question: These days many people get their news and information from social media. Do you ever get any news from…?

Media Insight Project

Those who pay for news are twice as likely as those who do not pay to get news from LinkedIn (13 percent vs. 6 percent). Interestingly, there are no other significant differences between payers and nonpayers when it comes to getting news on other social media platforms.

The numbers suggest not only that some platforms are used by more people than others but that some platforms lend themselves to more frequent use for news.

Among those who use each platform, 58 percent receive news from Facebook multiple times a day compared with 47 percent from Instagram and 43 percent from Snapchat.

Similarly, 38 percent of Reddit users say they get news there multiple times a day, as do 35 percent from Twitter.

YouTube news consumers are somewhat less likely to look at it for news several times a day (23 percent).

And LinkedIn users tend not to use it as frequently for news. Just 8 percent say they turn to it multiple times a day.

Interestingly, there are no significant differences between news payers and those who do not pay for news when it comes to the frequency of getting news on social media.

Demographics of getting news on social media

About three-quarters of Americans of all races and ethnicities, and socioeconomic groups receive news from social media.

The survey did find some differences in the likelihood of getting news from social media related to gender and age.

Women are more likely than men to say they get news from social media (80 percent vs. 69 percent).

And although younger adults are more likely than older adults to get news on social media, many older adults also now get news there as well.

In all, a remarkable 90 percent of adults age 18-34 get news on social media. Yet, that number is 82 percent for adults age 35-49, and 67 percent for adults 50-64 years old.

What’s more, fully 50 percent of adults age 65 and older told us they are now getting news on social media. And among this oldest cohort, those who pay for news are notably more likely to get news from social media (55 percent) than those who do not pay for news (36 percent).

The post Print vs. digital subscribers: Demographic differences and paths to subscription appeared first on American Press Institute.

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